Ralph Waite Dead: Waltons Patriarch Dies at Age 85

Ralph Waite attends the 'The Waltons' 40th anniversary reunion
Waltons star Ralph Waite has died at the age of 85 Tibrina Hobson/WireImage.com

Ralph Waite, the actor who played the father on CBS' The Waltons in the 1970s, has died, Deadline reported Thursday, Feb. 13. He was 85.

Waite starred for nine seasons on the Depression-era drama as John Walton Sr., a role that earned him his second Emmy nomination in 1978. (His first was for the miniseries Roots in 1977.)

A working actor since the 1960s, Waite's film resume included classics such as 1967's Cool Hand Luke, 1970's Five Easy Pieces, and 1992's The Bodyguard. He also had recurring roles on ABC's Murder One and on the HBO series Carnivale. More recently, he appeared on NCIS as Jackson Gibbs, the father to Mark Harmon's character, and on the NBC soap Days of Our Lives.

In the 1990s, Waite tried his hand at politics, running for Congress in California three separate times. He lost all three races, two of them to Sonny Bono's widow Mary Bono.

Pauley Perrette, who stars on NCIS as Abby Sciuto, tweeted about the actor's death late Thursday. "So sad," she wrote. "Ralph Waite has passed away. Papa Gibbs. We love him at NCIS SO much. So so sad."

Waite is survived by his third wife, Linda East, and three children from a previous marriage.

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